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St John Ambulance victims interviewed as part of review of its handling of sex abuse claims

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Independent investigators examining historical child sex abuse at St John Ambulance have begun interviewing victims targeted by paedophiles at the voluntary organisation.

The review is focusing on how the organisation handled complaints of sexual abuse when these arose.

In March, Dr Geoffrey Shannon, former special rapporteur on child protection, was commissioned to conduct the major review.

The leading child protection expert began interviewing victims last weekend and these interviews are now ongoing, it is understood.

Dr Shannon, who is conducting the interviews with the help of two other experts, will progress to speaking to members of St John Ambulance once he has finished this current process.

Mick Finnegan (38), who first reported sexual abuse against a named perpetrator to gardaí and the organisation more than 20 years ago, welcomed the beginning of the interview process. He is due to speak to Dr Shannon and the review team in the coming days.

“I’m happy that the review has finally commenced. I hope it will make recommendations that will implement quality improvement initiatives to ensure that child protection is taken seriously within St John Ambulance but more importantly that the mistakes of the past are not repeated,” he told the Sunday Independent.

A source close to the investigation said Dr Shannon and his team were determined to do a “thorough, comprehensive job — the focus is on complete transparency”.

Dr Shannon will publish a report upon conclusion of the investigation, which is expected to be compiled by the middle of next year.

“The report will make recommendations. Part of this review is ensuring the protection of future generations of children," the source said. This interview process is expected to be completed by Christmas.

Mr Finnegan has called for “real accountability” from the St John organisation.

Tusla, the State child and family agency, has investigated several child abuse complaints against the suspect in Mr Finnegan’s case and determined the allegations to be founded.

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An investigation led by the Garda National Protective Services Bureau (GNPSB) into another former volunteer for sexual abuse against a number of men is now at an advanced stage.

Mr Finnegan, originally from Crumlin, Dublin, said his abuser was a senior officer involved with the Old Kilmainham division. “I joined when I was 12,” he said. “The abuse began almost as soon as I joined.

“His modus operandi was to use first aid as a reason to touch and sexually assault me. It started off as touching and escalated over time.

“It escalated to a point where he beat me up when I was 14, then pinned me to a bed, face down, and raped me.

“He beat me up and raped me because I was rejecting his advances. It was vile. I had said: ‘No, I don’t want you to do this to my any more.’”

Now a first-year Trinity student who is studying to become a social worker, Mr Finnegan quit the St John Ambulance to escape his attacker.

St John Ambulance issued the following statement: “The Board of St John Ambulance Ireland (SJAI) has commissioned an independent review to assess the handling of historical child sexual abuse within SJAI in response to allegations made against a former volunteer. Members of SJAI and its board are fully co-operating with the reviewer as he determines throughout the review process.”
 


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